The Importance of Verbs and Other Word Types

A couple of weeks ago I uploaded a post called How Many Words Should My Child Be Saying? In this post I outlined the number of words children should have by particular ages, and why it’s important to monitor the quantity of your child’s vocabulary. What I didn’t really talk about, however, was the importance of variety within a child’s vocabulary.

The Importance of Verbs and Other Word Types | Where Language Grows

Most children’s earliest words are nouns, or the names of objects, people and places (e.g. Mum, dad, car, train, etc.). Once they begin to acquire more and more words, however, they begin to acquire new word types, like verbs (e.g. jump, run, go), descriptive words (e.g. yucky, yummy, wet, dirty), location words (e.g. up, down, there) and more. These words are important for effective communication, as there’s only so much information we can convey using nouns alone. They’re also necessary to make the leap from single words to combining words. Most children don’t tend to produce many 2 word utterances by putting 2 nouns together. Instead they tend to combine word types, like a noun and action (e.g. Ball go), noun and descriptor (e.g. Doggy big), etc.

A lack of variety within the types of words within a child’s vocabulary may also be a sign of ongoing language difficulties into later childhood. A study as recent as this year (2016)* identified small verb vocabulary and slow rate of verb acquisition in children 24 months of age to be a predictor of later grammatical deficits.

So, need a hand picking some words other than nouns to teach your little one? If you’re subscribed to the newsletter, you’ll have received a copy of the Toddler Vocabulary Checklist a few weeks ago (if you didn’t, shoot me an email and I’ll send you a copy). In the checklist of the 100 most common early words, most were nouns, but there were also plenty of common verbs and descriptive words in there you can use for inspiration. Between the Toddler Vocabulary Checklist and the word lists below, you will find plenty of wonderful non-noun words to work on with your late talker!

VERBS
Break
Feed
Finish
Help
Jump
Kick
Kiss
Push
Sing
Smile

DESCRIPTIVE WORDS
Big
Broken
Dark
Fast
Hurt
Pretty
Soft

LOCATION WORDS
Away
Down
In
Out
There
Up

 

*Hadley, P.A., Rispoli, M., & Hsu, N. (2016). Toddlers Verb Lexicon Diversity and Grammatical Outcomes. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 47, 44-58.

How Many Words Should My Child Be Saying?

Probably the most common question I am asked by parents is how many words should their child be saying at a given age. A lack of words is one of the earliest warning signs for parents, that their child’s communication is not developing typically. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of different figures floating around. While I covered broader communication development in my Early Language Development Series, I wanted to cover vocabulary acquisition specifically, for this reason.

How Many Words? | Where Language Grows

 

Age Average Number of Words Minimum Number of Words
12 months 1
15 months 10 1
18 months 50 5-15
24 months 200-300 50

The above table breaks down early vocabulary down into ages, along with the average number of words most children will have and the minimum number of words they must have to be considered as falling within the normal range. If a child has fewer words than the minimum expected for their age, their vocabulary development is delayed, and this can be an indicator of language delays or disorders. For this reason I thoroughly recommend contacting a Speech Pathologist local to you for an assessment if your child is not yet saying the minimum number of words.

Unfortunately, counting your child’s words is not as simple as it sounds. There are a few things you will need to keep in mind. The first is that for a child to be considered to have a word in their vocabulary they must say it spontaneously. This means without having to have copied it or repeated it back (children can be great imitators but have difficulty holding onto words). Next, they must also have said it multiple times in more than one or two situations. Some children with language delays with have what I call “pop-outs”, where a word will come out of nowhere, and usually doesn’t reappear after that. Finally, unfortunately, lost words do not count. Regression is never normal, and may be a warning sign for language disorders and other diagnoses. I recommend a child who has lost words (even if they still fall within the range of normal for number of words) be referred to a Speech Pathologist.

Now that you’ve got the info you need on how many words your little one should be using, it’s time to start counting! I’ve got a fantastic freebie that’s about to go out to my newsletter subscribers that will help you do just that. The Toddler Vocabulary Checklist includes the 100 most common early words in an easy printable checklist form (as well as some extra space to add any other words your little one uses), that will make counting up your child’s words even easier. Be sure to sign up through the sign up form on the right sidebar of this page by September 3rd at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard time.

Toddler Vocabuary Checklist

My Five Favourite Toy Types for Speech Therapy

I love collecting toys to add to arsenal for therapy. It’s actually becoming a bit of a problem, as I have more toys than I have space for in my little office! Still, I can’t help myself when I see something that I know my little friends will love, especially as toys are so useful in teaching kids to communicate. As a parent, however, it’s not really plausible to have the quantity of toys as a practice (both financially and space wise), and you definitely don’t need that many to help a late talker or early language learner. In today’s post, I’ve compiled a list of my five favourite types of toys for therapy. These are the types of toys that I use most often with children between around 12 months and 3 years, because they are fun, effective and do double duty when it comes to targeting different skills.

Toy Types

Cause and Effect Toys

Cause and effect toys are simple toys where a child does something (like hit a button, pull a lever, etc.) which causes the toy to do something (like light up, make noises, move, etc.). These toys are lots of fun and can be used to teach a lot of different skills. The really obvious one you can work on with a cause and effect toy is cause and effect. Children need to understand that they can do or say something and it will have an impact on the behaviour of something else before they are ready to communicate verbally. They are also fantastic for teaching vocabulary like ‘go’, ‘my turn’, ‘more’, ‘push’, etc. They are particularly great for little ones who need a bit of temptation to make communicative attempts. For these little guys I bogart the toy or parts of the toy that make it go and try to elicit the target word before letting them have their turn (don’t I sound mean!)

Some of my favourite cause and effect toys are the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Gumball Count and Colour Gumball, Fisher Price Giggle Gang toys (great for smacking and crashing) and the Bright Starts Roll & Pop Fire Truck.

Blocks, Duplo and Other Simple Building Toys

Kids love construction toys, whether it’s building them up or, as is more likely, knocking the down. They make great toys for stimulating language skills too. You can target new words like ‘block’, ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘on’, ‘smash’, ‘push’, ‘broken’, and on and on. You can also use them to work on a lot of preverbal skills too, like joint attention, turn taking and cause and effect.

Any block set you can get your hands on will do, so long as it’s appropriate for your little one’s age and stage.

Bubbles

There are few things kids won’t do for bubbles. I don’t know what it is about a floating circular films of dish soap, but little ones just love them! There are very few preverbal skills that you couldn’t find a way to work on with bubbles. Target skills like joint attention (they will be waiting so expectantly for you to blow those bubbles), cause and effect, turn taking and even imitation (I haven’t met a little friend yet who didn’t at some stage commandeer the wand and copy blowing bubbles). It your little one is in the early stages of word learning, there’s also lots of words you can teach them to say and/or understand, like ‘bubble’, ‘pop’, ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘go’, ‘more’, ‘wow’, ‘big’, ‘little’, ‘get it’, ‘poke’, ‘blow’, ‘wet’, ‘all gone’ and so much more.

I tend to favour the classic bubble and wand set, but I also use and love automatic and press to blow bubble toys.

Swings, Slides and Other Movement Equipment

Some kids, especially ones who seek sensory input, love whole body movement and the proprioceptive feedback it gives their little bodies. For these kids the best toys can be ones that help them get lots and lots of movement in. You can use these to work on skills like requesting (try blocking the slide or holding onto the swing until you get a word, sign or even vocalisation), turn taking, imitation of movements and more. Vocabulary targets are also only as limited as your imagination, but some common ones are ‘swing’, ‘slide’ ‘see-saw’, ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘climb’, ‘run’, ‘go’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’, ‘high’ and ‘stop’.

You definitely don’t need to go and buy any of this equipment either. If you’re near a park with play equipment, go and do your ‘therapy’ at the park! You can even get creative at home for some movement activities. I’ve seen families use cardboard over the bottom few steps on a stair case to make a makeshift slide, blankets used like a hammock to swing little ones (very carefully!), obstacle courses made from things found around the house, and if you’re an Aussie too you can use your hills hoist to hang from like monkey bars.

Pretend Play Toys

Pretend play is important for language development because it’s role in helping to develop a child’s understanding of symbolism. It’s also inherently fun for most kids to imitate the world around them in their play. Pretend play toys like babies, dolls and stuffed are great for teaching a child to begin to engage in pretend play, starting with simple pretend actions like kissing, rocking or patting, and eventually moving up to things like pretending to feed and groom. For a little one who’s got the pretend play thing down, these sorts of toys can also be awesome for targeting vocabulary, especially with the different food, animal, home and occupation sets you can get a hold of. Because they generally come in sets, it’s also a great chance to teach slightly higher level vocabulary in the form of category labels, like farm animals, zoo animals, fruit, vegetables, etc.

My newest favourite pretend play toy is a wooden set of fruit and vegetables with chopping board and knife I picked up on a recent camping trip. You also can’t beat your basic baby doll or kitchen set.

Bonus: YOU!

You are more important than any toy you can buy for your child. While toys are wonderful tools for stimulating communication development, you are the one they will learn their language from. My best recommendation for making the most out of all of the toys I’ve talked about in this post is for you to be involved in the play that happens around them.

What are your little ones favourite toys, and what creative ways do you use them to build communication at home?

Early Language Development: Three Years Old

When your child hits their third birthday we say farewell to the toddler years and welcome in the preschool years. Children at 3 are becoming more like miniature adults, and their communication is beginning to sound closer to that of adults. Words have taken over from gesturing and vocalising as their main form of communication, and their sentences are becoming longer and more complex.

Language Development (1)

Vocabulary

Vocabularies continue to expand this year, beginning at 3 with on average 1000 words and turning 4 with around 1600. This seems huge, and it is. Between 3 and 4 your child will be saying words that you didn’t even know they knew. Infrequently used or heard, and complex words are being acquired and allow your child to talk about an enormous range of subjects. The names of category words, such as “animals”, “fruit” and “vegetables”, are emerging as your child learns that items can be grouped together. Children will also be learning words that help them make longer and more complex sentences like “if” and “because”.

Sentences

With a bigger vocabulary and more to say comes longer sentences. Your child will most likely reach their third birthday saying sentences between 3 and 4 words long. By the end of their year as a 3 years old they will be capable of forming what we call “heaped” sentences of upwards of 10 words. These sentences involve “heaps and heaps” of information, and can often run on and on, and use lots of “ands”. As well as being a big step in sentence length and formation, this is also the beginning of narratives, or storytelling. Three year olds will be excited to tell you all about the things they experienced or learned, and will tell big long stories that can often jump from place to place and subject to subject. Your little one is learning so much about their world, and at this age they’re enjoying expressing it.

Asking and Answering Questions

As a child approaches three, they will already be answering a lot of “wh” questions like “what”, “when”, “who” and “where”. After their third birthday, they will not only answer these types of questions, but also begin to ask them. A lot. They’re curious and learning about their world, and acquiring the ability to use “wh” question forms gives them the tools to ask the millions of questions they need answers to.

Receptive Language

Receptively, your 3 year old is becoming harder to stump. By now they understand the words for almost everything in their everyday environment, plus a lot of things that aren’t, and are able to follow three step instructions (e.g. “get your shoes, put them on and we’ll go to the shops”). At this age, your little one is also beginning to ask for clarification when they don’t understand or know something, and they may also be asking what words they don’t know mean.

Colours, Shapes and Numbers

Three is also the time that most children begin to learn academic language sets. Things like colours, numbers and shapes are emerging as you and your preschool or day care begin working on prerequisite skills for the lead up to school.

5 Early Language Goals to Target with Bubbles

Bubbles are easily one of the most popular activities across the board with my little friends. They absolutely love them! I have to say I love them too. They’re cheap, fun and so versatile to use for language stimulation. In this post I’ll go over some of the common language goals I use bubbles to target with my little friends and their families and some step-by-step instructions on how you can use them too.

5 Early Language Goals to Target with Bubbles

Vocabulary

Increasing the number of words your child can say is a really common goal for late talkers and early language learners, because so many of them have difficulty acquiring new vocabulary. Bubbles can be a really great, repetitive and motivating activity for teaching new words like more, go, pop, blow and bubble (of course). Choose one of these words (or any word that works with bubbles) and be sure to do lots and lots of modelling. Hearing a word often is important for acquiring it. One way I use bubbles to teach these words in a more direct manner is by requiring a child to say the word (depending on the goal) before bubbles are blown or the stick is given to them to blow. To introduce the word, keep hold of the bubble solution and use a big, excited voice to say the word you’re targeting before blowing the bubbles into the air. After a few rounds of this, you can start to attempt to get your little one to say the word instead of you. Get the bubble wand loaded up with solution, hold it up ready to blow and look at your little one expectantly. If they don’t say the target word within a couple of seconds (which is very likely in the beginning), you can prompt them by asking “what do we say?” and if they are still unable to say the word, complete the turn by saying the word and blowing the bubbles, and then try the routine again. Targeting vocabulary in this way is best done when your child is already copying words regularly in play and already has a couple of words that they use consistently and often. If, developmentally, they are not at this level, working on acquiring new vocabulary is likely to be an unrealistic goal.

Requesting

Learning to request (i.e. ask for something) is one of the earliest developing forms of communication, and bubbles is a great to help a toddler learn this skill. To teach a child to make a request, I often start with the word more, but may also use the name of the object they’re requesting (in this instance bubbles), an action word like go or blow, or even a word like ta or please. I teach requesting much the same as the method outlined in the Vocabulary section above.

Exclamatory Words

Exclamatory words are short words that tend to carry more emotion than other words (think words like yay, wow, oh no, uh oh, etc.). In typical language development, the development of exclamatory words and other words happens so rapidly they often appear to develop at the same time. For children with language delays, however, this step tends to be easier for them to acquire before first, and can be an important bridge between being non-verbal and beginning to use words. Bubbles are a great way to target exclamatory words, because it’s a naturally exciting activity for little friends. Blow bubbles in the air and exclaim “wow!” or “yay!” with lots of emphasis. If you blow bubbles and nothing comes out, exclaim “oh no!” or “oops!”. If you accidentally drip bubble solution on your clothes or the ground, exclaim “yuck!”. Pop bubbles and yell “pop!”, or pretend that popping them hurts and say “ouch” (kids think this is hilarious).

Turn Taking

I find working on turn taking works best when you have an automatic bubble maker of some sort, as turn taking with a wand and solution can get messy and take too long to switch between turns with toddlers for whom turn taking is a challenge. Things like bubble blowing guns or anything toy where you have to press a button or do something and then bubbles come out should do the trick. To work on taking turns, give your kiddo the bubble blower and say “your turn” and let them have a little while to blow some bubbles. Then, say “my turn”, take the bubble blower, do one quick spurt of bubbles and quickly hand the bubble blower back. Repeat this over and over, as long as your little one is interested, and try increasing the length that your child will let you have your turn for before they become upset or lose interest.

Following Directions

If your child can blow bubbles, or you have a bubble blower, you can also use bubbles to improve their ability to follow simple instructions. If working on very simple instructions, space two or more toys or objects your child is familiar with out on the ground or a table, then give your child instructions like “blow bubbles at X”. If working on prepositions (location words), you can ask your child to blow the bubbles up, down, in something, under the table, on the table, etc. If working on following instructions involving actions, a fun activity your little one might enjoy is to blow the bubbles and tell your child to do things like kick, punch, catch, smack, stomp, clap, blow or kiss the bubbles floating in the air.

 

Don’t forget to like my Facebook Page to keep up with all of the latest from me here, and have you followed me on Periscope yet? It’s a fantastic way to connect and lets me share lots of ideas and tips (like my last scope on a DIY movement activity to keep toddlers engaged), and to answer your questions in real time. I hope I’ll see you there!